To the Moon
John’s dream was to go to the moon. He was one of those kids who grew up looking down a telescope with his favorite moments lying in the garden on a clear night staring at the stars.
Now in his late 70's John was 12 months post dementia diagnosis and concerned about the future. The last few months had been a fog. John had gradually withdrawn from social circles and watched as friends, unsure of how to communicate pulled back. John an intelligent ex accountant and someone who in his early years had travelled extensively, could no longer do the family budget and struggled with the morning newspaper. He watched with guilt as his wife Jan tried her best to help, but she looked tired. Respite had proved difficult to organise and highly stressful for both Jan and John. This meant that apart from different people coming in twice a week to provide household support, Jan was burning out. John spent most days sitting in a chair watching the same old TV programme. His biggest fear now was having to leave Jan and not being surrounded by the things he loved to go into a home.
This is when EnlivenPlus got involved. The EnlivenPlus Specialist Care Manager met with John and Jan to understand them, their goals, aspirations and fears. A support plan was written up in partnership. Jan wanted better understanding of how to best help John. She also needed time out for herself knowing John was in safe hands. John opened up on his childhood love of astronomy and his fascination with the moon landing. Talking about this made John feel alive inside. Together John and Ruth decided on the goal of 'to the moon and back'. John and Jan also had concerns about their family overseas. The kids were long grown up and living in Australia. Although they were worried about their parents, their conversations with John were increasing rare and Jan felt they didn't understand when she sometimes talked to them to release stress.
Ruth, as Specialist Care Manager discussed a Support Plan with John and Jan that would provide consistent support with dementia champions they could know and trust throughout the journey. This had Ruth, a Registered Health Professional as the central contact and Di as the Living Well Support person.
Support for the care partner
As part of the EnlivenPlus subscription plan, Ruth would initially spend part of her time with Jan, helping her understand why John would react in certain ways and possible methods of communication that might help. She provided a listening ear for Jan and helped her to navigate the complex pathway of social and medical services. She spoke with doctors, specialists and the local Alzheimers society ensuring Jan had a seamless support network. Ruth would also help Jan attend appointments with John so that pertinent questions were asked, she could advocate where needed and often explain afterwards the doctor’s advice.
Together with John and Jan, Ruth was able to help them with basic adaptations to the home making life easier and safer for John. She was also able to talk through assistive technology that could be helpful. Together they were able to work through difficult conversations about the future and how best to prepare for it.
Connecting the family / whānau
Ruth also worked closely with family. She got them involved in care and support, helping them understand what was happening within their father’s brain and how they could best help him. As part of the service, John was provided with a Kitcal computer tablet. Designed for people with dementia, the simplicity meant this was easy for John to learn and use. The calendar reminders ensured he didn't forget anything during the day. His daughter was able to check in with him regularly by video calling from Australia. All he had to do was hit the reply or emoji buttons. He could finally hear from his grandkids who would text and send photos. John no longer was isolated and had a window into the outside world.
Meaningful activities and new experiences
Ruth and John’s plan was to spend part of Di’s time on his To the Moon and Back project and creating his This is Me folder. This unique folder enabled John to reminisce and build up a story book of his life. It also provided something for the family to have that helped them better understand and preserve John’s remarkable life whilst being a new shared point of connection.
As for the Moon and back project, Di and John spent time at the library. They researched books on space travel and Ruth was able to talk with librarians about creating a dementia friendly space, making the library far more accessible for John and others living with dementia. The new learnings whilst stimulating were also stretching the brain which could slow down progression of dementia. They would visit the planetarium and classic flyers where John found others who shared his passion. He ended up volunteering on the odd day at the planetarium which allowed him to pass on his passion to kids.
Without immediately realising it, John's increased activities had made him more
mobile. He was now walking to the shops, he was getting up in the morning looking forward to new experiences, feeling he now had a purpose to the day. Jan was seeming more relaxed and was enjoying time each week with friends, secure that John was enjoying his own meaningful activities. There had been fewer crises as they were now understanding how to avoid these. Johns’ family no longer felt disconnected from their parents. They could regularly video call and have a virtual cup of tea together. They got to share their lives with their parents and feel part of Johns project creating a deeper sense of connection.
John no longer worried about having to leave everything he loved. That was for another day in the future. For now, he felt content. No longer was he 'John with dementia', but 'John living with, but not defined by dementia'. John the husband, father, grandfather and passionate astrologer.
* The above is a made up story based on a range of true stories to illustrate how the new EnlivenPlus service can work. Everyone’s story is different and that’s what makes EnlivenPlus unique. It is about tailoring a programme to you and your goals and aspirations. All our staff are highly trained, experienced and have a heart for people living with dementia. They are your support helping make the journey through dementia one where you get to live your best lives.
We are driven to see changes to a person centred culture of care in New Zealand that engages, enables and empowers you to live purposeful, fulfilling and connected lives.